Bartlett on Bush

BARTLETT ON BUSH….Bruce Bartlett is not a happy camper these days. A Reagan-era conservative who thinks that George Bush has betrayed conservatism, he got fired a few months ago from his job at the conservative think tank NCPA because he decided to write a book explaining in detail just why he thinks Bush is a “pretend conservative.”

Appropriately, the book is called Impostor, and I have a review essay about it in the current issue of the Monthly. Here’s a passage from the review that a friend of mine said was his favorite:

I’ve long viewed George Bush as a temperamental conservative, the kind of guy you meet in a bar who slams down his drink and asks belligerently, ?You know what this country needs?? ? and then proceeds to tell you. He’s a conservative who is defined by a visceral loathing of ’60s-era ?moral decay,? not one who’s read the collected works of Russell Kirk and Milton Friedman or who has been inhaling National Review since he was a teenager. Still, even if the guy in the bar is indeed one particular type of conservative, Bartlett makes the reasonable point that a conservative president needs to have at least a few vague guiding conservative principles, and those are hard to find in Bush. If you raise spending, increase tariffs, and create new entitlements without blinking an eye, even belligerence doesn’t make you into a genuine conservative.

As it turns out, I think Bartlett is basically right about Bush ? though wrong about some of his other conclusions ? and I think the book has some lessons for liberals as well conservatives. But you’ll have to read to the end of the review to find out what they are.

It’s worth adding a note here, though. I email with Bruce regularly, and he’s a nice guy and an honest analyst. More honest than me, in fact. But while I hope his book does well, it’s worth keeping in mind that Bruce is disappointed in Bush because he’s not conservative enough. He voted for John Schmitz in 1972 and went to work for Ron Paul in 1976 because Paul claimed he was to the right of Barry Goldwater. If he had his way, I imagine he’d pretty much dismantle every government program that I hold dear.

Just something to keep in mind. The fact that he’s harshing on Bush is music to our ears, but he’s still on the other side.

In the meantime, though, Bruce emails to say that he likes this article in the Dallas Observer that tells the tale of how he got fired from his job at NCPA. He thinks it tells the story pretty well.